COLTON, MARY (1822-1898), philanthropist and suffragist, was born on 6 December
1822 in London, eldest of three children of Samuel Cutting, bootmaker, and his
wife Hannah. In 1839 Mary accompanied her widowed father, her brother and sister
to Adelaide. On 3 December 1844 at Trinity Church she married (Sir) John Colton,
saddler and hardware merchant. Committed Methodists, they attended Gawler Place
Wesleyan Chapel, and from 1851 its Pirie Street successor. Mary was one of
Adelaide's earliest Sunday School teachers, continuing her classes for girls and
young women for over fifty years. Devoted to her 'dear girls', she often walked to
visit and help them if they were ill. In some homes she saw poverty and despair:
her lifelong philanthropy, based on her ideals of Christian service, emerged from
these experiences. She began with the church's Dorcas Society, the South Adelaide
Wesleyan Ladies' Working Society (secretary from 1844) and later the Nursing
Sisters' Association, which cared for needy mothers after childbirth.
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Australian Dictionary of Biography
Mary Colton, née Cutting, arrived in South Australia from London in 1839. She was closely associated with the South Australian Boarding out Society and the Adelaide Children's Hospital. In 1879 she formed a city club for young women which became the Young Women's Christian Association in 1884. She served as president until her death in 1898. She also worked with Mary Lee and others to form the South Australian Women's Suffrage League and became its president in 1892.
Mary Colton, née Cutting, was born in London, December 1822 to Hannah and Samuel Cutting. In 1839 she emigrated to South Australia with her newly widowed father and in 1844 she married John Blackler Colton. Between 1848 and 1865 she bore nine children, several of whom died in infancy. Her husband became Mayor of Adelaide (1874-75, a Member of Parliament (1862-1887) and twice Premier of South Australia. Both of them shared a keen interest in the well-being of society. They worked together in the Benevolent and Strangers' Friend Society and in organisations for the blind, deaf and dumb. Understanding the situation for poor people in the city, Mary Colton worked to house elderly women by joining a cottage homes committee in 1871 and later, the Lady Kintore Cottage Homes Trust. She was one of the principal founders of the Adelaide Children's Hospital in 1876, an organisation she served for the rest of her life. In 1879, concerned at the problems faced by young women, she began a city club and in 1880 they were housed in the Pirie Street Wesleyan Methodist Church in Adelaide. In 1884 it expanded to become the Young Women's Christian Association affiliated with its international counterparts. She remained its president until her death. An indefatigable worker she also worked on the Boarding-Out Society with Catherine Helen Spence and others concerned with the plight of orphaned and neglected children. It was through membership with the Ladies' Committee of the Social Purity Society that Mary Colton became involved in the campaign for women's suffrage. Recognising the urgent need for suffrage after being involved in the campaign to raise the age of consent to sixteen in 1885, Mary Colton joined with Mary Lee to organise the South Australian Women's Suffrage League in July 1888. Other members included Rosetta Birks, Elizabeth Nicholls, Serena Thorne Lake, Augusta Zadow and the League was later supported by Catherine Helen Spence. In 1892, Lady Mary Colton became president of the League. As a member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union she was able to forge links with between it and the League which greatly assisted the suffrage campaign. During this incredibly busy period, she also found time for other duties, becoming foundation president of the Women's Auxiliary of Foreign Missions in 1893. Mary Colton continued her rigorous schedule of work until her illness and subsequent death on 28 July 1898.
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Australian Women's Register